God’s teaching tools in Assisi

It’s my last morning in Assisi. Soon I will depart and go on the next leg of my journey before returning home. I’m restless and nervous, for transitions and travel challenge me.

I came here as a pilgrim two weeks ago. I experienced this city as a pilgrim. Now I understand that I also leave as a pilgrim, for I am always on a journey of faith.

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and sojourners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul. -1 Peter 2:11

I can trust that God will take care of me and remain my trusty companion, for sure. For me, a certain worldly desire wages against God’s invitation to be a disciple who take leaps of faith: I long for a sense of certitude about where my life is turning. I realized this here in Assisi. This is one of many lessons that I will bring home to integrate.

Indeed, God has utilized my time on this holy ground to teach me lessons that I need to learn.  Overall, my experience in Assisi has provided many graces.

To teach me these lessons, God has used many teaching tools. There’s the tools you might expect: liturgies, homilies, readings, lectures, silent prayer, meditation, religious art, tombs of saints, and churches.

God’s truth has been revealed in other ways too: through people, places, music and in random moments in caves, on mountain paths and busy streets.

In particular, God has spoken through the wisdom of other pilgrimage companions, all who are Franciscans. I’ll feature one:

David Hirt, OFM Cap.

"Br. David Hirt" Photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
“Br. David Hirt” Photo by Julia Walsh FSPA

Age: 36

Entered Religious Life: 2007

Solemn Vow Profession: 2013

Hometown: Terre Haute, IN

Current Ministry: Campus Minister and Spiritual Director at Mount Lawrence High School Seminary, Mt. Calvary, WI

My Question to Br. David: What have you learned about the messiness of Franciscan life during this pilgrimage? 

Br. David’s AnswerFranciscan life is like any one of the old churches here in the Spoleto Valley. It’s old and rough and broken and beautiful, but built to show that one perfect sanctuary that is the reign of God. Franciscan life is the mix of ideals and the nitty-gritty reality of what you have to deal with in the world, and the ideal and reality don’t always meet. 

Another teaching tool that God has utilized is the beauty of the scenery.  It has frequently felt as if every direction I look gives me a picture worth contemplating. Many sights feel as if they are pictures right out of a European photo book or off a postcard. And, I get to be part of it! The beauty and God’s goodness has given much to ponder, much opportunity to do as St. Clare has instructed: gaze, consider, contemplate, and imitate.

Here is a photo from my time here that I offer for your own consideration and contemplation. What of Christ does this photo invite you to imitate?

"Basilica of San Francesco, Assisi" Photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
“Basilica of San Francesco, Assisi” Photo by Julia Walsh FSPA

As I journey onward, I am carrying some solid intentions and hopes about how I will integrate what God has taught me into my ordinary life.

Wisdom and beauty is propelling me into mystery blessed with trust. While I move, I pray that I shall imitate The Great Teacher and the lessons I’ve learned here in Assisi. Amen!

prepping for pilgrimage

A week from now I will be in Madrid, Spain at the World Youth Day gathering with Catholics from all over the world. It will be a week of youth rallies, prayer, meetings, catechesis, bonding, communion and community building.  The great finale of the week will be an overnight vigil followed by a sunrise mass with Pope Benedict attended by millions of people.

I am very honored and blessed to have this opportunity to represent my community in a faraway land.  I am overwhelmed with what is ahead of me.  This is the most dramatic pilgrimage I have ever taken. Besides taking a few pilgrimages here and there to grottoes, shrines, and churches in the USA, I have never before traveled so far to deepen my faith and my relationship with God and the Church.

I am not really sure how to get ready. I am reading about Madrid and Spain and reviewing my basic Spanish skills.  I am making a packing list and running errands. I have gathered up some cool and comfortable clothing, a digital camera, and fresh journal.  I am trusting that God is guiding me through all this.

And, I am praying.  I am praying for an open heart and mind so I may grow.  I am praying that I warmly love all that I encounter so that my efforts at vocation outreach shall be fruitful.  I pray that the experience shall enlighten the hearts of young people from around the world so that they may grow in love with God and God’s people and be willing to devote themselves to building the reign of God.

I ask for your prayers for all the pilgrims, for the Catholic Church, for Christians everywhere and for young people who are searching no matter what they believe. Thank you!

p.s. I’ll do my best to send an update from Spain!